Sunday, December 03, 2017

Dance in Space?

Can you dance in outer space? Isn't dance ultimately the weighted body playing with gravity? Did outer space just become more boring? But aliens, you say?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Perspective Shifts

Perspective is fascinating. You can be utterly disinterested or even dislike a thing as long as you've known of it, and then one day you'll see or experience it in a particular context at a certain point in your own evolution, and suddenly it becomes meaningful, utterly captivating, and you understand it completely. Like olives. I hated olives all my life, and suddenly when I encounter them in a jar swimming in olive oil and feta cheese, eaten with flatbread baked fresh off the streets of the middle east- olives are suddenly delicious and I crave them. Now whenever I think I don't like something, I remember olives. Perspective shifts take time and mental effort, and some of the best things in life take several tries and considerations. Like cheese and coffee. Cheese is a weird food, but once you get on that train, it's like moldy stinky heaven for life.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Mechanics of Motion

The mechanics of shoulder blades followed by the mechanics of pachanga. So interesting how dance can be broken down into springs, pulleys, and Newton's third law. What is particularly beautiful about our mechanics of motion is the amount of spiraling and rotation that takes place within our skeletomuscular frame. I am just discovering this.

Dance is more than mechanics, though: it is a harmonious marriage of mechanics and music, where the former is the how, and the latter is the why- and the result is either joy or endorphins.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Gaga and Salsa

Tonight: Gaga method and salsa on2 (both done in jeggings). When I took a gaga class 2 years ago, I felt mildly awakened into a freer more abstract way of moving compared to what I was used to. Tonight, in my second gaga class, I felt alive, powerful, sure of myself- really free. Something has changed. Have you ever stretched upward so far beyond yourself that your breath quickens as if gasping for air while treading deep waters? But in an ecstatic way, as if about to burst with the overflow of life in your chest. I didn't know the physical body was capable of producing such a mental state. And salsa...who knew? I'm getting that there's good solid transferrable technique to this fast, flashy, hip-swaggery. Beyond the technique, it is liberating to move quickly with less deliberation of each micro-movement. Also, I think I'm now an on2 snob. Tomorrow- Los Angeles. Beverly Hills. Cafe stuff. And hopefully, dance.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fanciful Nights

I love summer nights sleeping accompanied by the whirring of a fan. A gateway to all the summers past. Gentle, soothing, mechanical lullaby.

Monday, April 24, 2017

For Who For What

April 24, 2012:

I toss away behind me on either side of me the notion that I must create for appearances, money, or fame-- for others, in other words. I reacquire the desire to do the things I do because I simply want to. To create for myself and myself only. To sing for myself and myself only.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rumba Essentials

Love the sound of the first beats of the claves and congas as you sink into your body. Takes me back to the place with the palm trees.

In rumba and other afrocuban dances, knee bends are your metronome. And they always bend down. Never straighten the knees.

The hip reacts to the bend of the knee in threes.

The front forearm is affirmatively placed across the body, out and in. Tossing the scarf out and bringing it back in. The crossing brings the arms out of the body to the side of it, as if opening to the side.

The two feet subtly open in the same direction, together, as one.

The shoulders circle vertically and from under in opposition to each other, especially in initiation of a step.

Before any step is taken, lengthen the neck, loosen the shoulders as the claves and congas sound. Feel the circularity in the shoulder girdle.

Do not run. Listen to the music.

Orishas today was San Lazaro featuring the clock-like bounce of the knees.


Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Earth and I

The earth is my friend
my sun, my source
my teacher
The earth demands--
I respond

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Reflection On My Current State of Dance

I was a ballet-only girl for 6 years. Then a year and change ago, another dance stole my heart-Cuban modern technique. But instead of drawing me away forever from my first love, I find that I am falling in love with ballet all over again, with a greater respect and deeper appreciation for it exactly because of the way it contrasts to modern, contemporary and other styles of dance. Moreover, Cuban modern technique has opened the way for me to actually understand how to dance ballet better. Partly by inspiring me to take interest in a myriad of other dance forms. And albeit sometimes I add too much flourish to my arabesque instead of staying true to square ballet form. I am reminded of those math problems where to solve a problem in the real-numbered world, sometimes you have to go through the complex (imaginary) realm to get to the real-numbered solution. I was also a math nerd in the past, before the dancing years.

There is a lot of that- going through an alternate path to get from simple A to B. For instance, quite often in the study of dance, you get the physical result you want by going through the imaginary channel; by visualizing and the use of imagery and metaphor, you make your body do what it is physically supposed to do (per your own will or intention). The mind and body are intimately linked. Just as how in language, metaphor and imagery are connective channels or tools used to generate cognitive understanding whether within oneself or between two or more people, in dance, too, they are tools used to generate understanding between the mind and the body. After all, dance is itself a language so it is reasonable that it would function under the same laws and patterns of behavior and evolution.

A somewhat related phenomenon is when you create a physical effect with your body by only giving the intention of doing the perceived effect, but not actually doing it fully. A holding back of energy of sorts, for the full energy would actually overburden and thus work against the result you want, toppling it over in a manner of speaking. In this type of situation, the mind's intention of an act generates the full physical act. Intention becomes a powerful tool in dance.

Sometimes you teach your body to access the intended physical result by going through the imagination, and then once the feel of it is achieved and experienced, you can go back and access the same feel or result by pure anatomical awareness and reasoning. Often to attempt to do the latter first fails to produce the desired result because well, simply the body is complex, and forces and energy are unseen but very much a part of human movement. Both knowledge of anatomy, physiology and physics, as well as the imagination are required to learn how to dance. Dance is very much like the world of complex numbers: one part real and one part imaginary, or as we say in the world of numbers: A+Bi.

The discovery and study of Cuban dance (Cuban modern, rumba, Orishas) has been akin to the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry, where the shortest distance between two points is no longer a straight line but a curve. Prior to the Cuban dances, dance for me was very linear and angular. What makes Cuban dance so mezmerizing and difficult to pinpoint is its basis in circular movement. Once this is understood, the origin of their movements and the movements themselves become clear (or clearer).

The goal in studying the minutiae of dance in all its variants, for me, has always been to get closer and closer to the truth- the way of moving with absolute ease and freedom; with minimal, targeted energy expended; with the least amount of pain or damage inflicted on the instrument; and with the ability to adapt to different styles. Ideal movement of the human body should supercede style.

...Going back to origin, ballet for me is...classic...romantic...lofty...In daily practice sans makeup and acting, but with all the rigors of repetition at the barre, it carries a sort of Spartan grace. Stoic and militant, but simultaneously expressive in an unearthly way. It is the opposite of earthy; it is not of this world. If you can move gracefully and expressively within such strict boundaries of squareness, uprightness, and centeredness, then you can most certainly move out of squareness, with a curved or bent spine, and out of center. As one of my teachers told me, you must know Center to move out of Center. Said another way, you must have control to lose control.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Clothesline Mansion

A giant four-story mansion rising nonchalantly from the street labeled Concordia in Old Havana. Soft yellow facade richly sculpted and terraced on every floor. Huge arching windows. Inside, a wide, stone staircase spirals up into a vast, open, airy space of crumbling concrete and shredded ochre walls. Ceiling and arched windows of staggering height, held up by stone columns spaced out by sculpted archways. Smooth, dusty concrete floor. Void of any furniture or fixtures- only clotheslines zigzagging every which way across its emptiness. The landing is thrown into shadows by the winding stone staircase overhead that leads to the next floor. A silhouette of a small gargoyle statue atop the beginning of this banister seen from behind. Sounds of laundry from the other side of the banister. The twitter of birds magnified in this echo-y chamber. A rooster's crow in the distance.

I come out of the shadowy landing and wander around. Through the soaring archways I had witnessed from street level, streams in the white light of a morning in the Caribbean. It strikes the gargoyle statue from the front and transforms it into an armless female figure, her bodice a pink faded with the chemistry of time.

The laundress is on the other side of this banister. By now, she has hung 6, 7 large sheets along the network of clotheslines that run from column to column, and from column to archway all around the room. They billow dreamily in the light breeze. She begins to clip the next sheet. I take my place distant enough from her work and begin a sequence from one of my classes. The flow of this sequence is akin to the task of putting pen to paper and creating an entire drawing without once lifting the pen until the drawing is complete. The shapes of the hands are borrowed from traditional folkloric dances of Cuba.

Back home it seems, my body hardens and moves linearly with angularity. A week on this island smooths out the angles; my body rediscovers circularity, fluidity, centeredness, and strength- and in effect, liberation from itself. The head and neck rejoin the torso in fluid motion. The breastbone, fingertips and toes reach for walls, windows, ceilings and the sky. The breath becomes full and complete. All movement comes from center. To relax becomes essential. Essential to being Cuban.

Here on this island, I find music and rhythm in the tiniest of spaces- and thus, joy.

Knowing all the while that this peak state of strength, fluidity and internal rhythm will melt from my body by this same time next week after a few days of my regular life in front of screens and sitting in chairs. I live two lives. I require constant renewal.

The laundress has exited for the moment. I explore the view from the balcony, and then weave back in through the aisles of white sheets ever growing. Jete away from them. Spin toward them, spin away from them motivated by arms in changing positions, hair falling over my face. Reach for the clotheslines. Loose shoulders and hips. Passe steps off the stage.

Leap like a fish out of water.

Tiles of leaping porpoises accompanied by seagulls.

A couch dropped with an unnerving bang! From the sky into the street. Is carried away into another room across the street- a new home for the repurposed soul.

A toilet bowl.

Flying pizzas.

The 10,000 uses of fans.

A plaque commemorating a washing machine mechanic.

Men on styrofoam boats fishing in the dark, only ever in the dark.

Iron red fields under a blistering sun, and an old man working it with a lone ox.

  The waiting game.

A listing of options when there is only one option. 

A gift of woodcarved dancing figures in positions of ecstatic reach of the arms and leg.

Dull blue shutters. Glorious rays of light through studio windows. 

Walls of cheerful and brilliant blues. A wall-sized painting of Jemaya, her skirt in motion indistinguishable from the thrashing sea. Dancers through glass walls and glassless windows. Ballerinas walking home from class in full gear and bun held aloft among the general chaos of the streets. 

A doll-sized living room. Walls of a bright turquoise. Son music crooning from a tiny mp3 player propped along a slim ledge. Cutting under the four count to catch the off beat. Hips as a consequence of the ribcage. I am a little bit Cuban. Elegant, expressive, sensual, playful, and above all- relaxed.

Yellow walls and taped windows surrounded by palm trees blurred by a tropical rain. A marley floor constantly in need of cleaning. Filthy bathrooms with no toilet paper and one sink with running water. 

Why is there no toilet paper? 
There is none. 
There is none in the markets. 

The smell of stovetop espresso wafting into the studio in the middle of the same sequence every morning. 10,000 spoons of sugar and a drop of coffee. A pair of congas in one corner; an old piano in the back. Sequence after sequence with increased complexity and pace. You must enjoy the moment.


Walls lined with age and peeling so badly as if afflicted with a strange psoriasis. Huge chunks of ochre yellow paint torn off at varying depths to reveal several shades of murky yellow and brown. Wood ceiling above badly torn to reveal more of that ochre history beneath.

Legs in the air. From balancing on forearms and one shoulder, I return to the ground, stand up and dust off my arms, my knees, my black pants. Wipe the sheen of sweat from my forehead, breathe and look around.

Large white sheets billow everywhere across the space. Dozens of smaller dinner napkins are strung across the archway openings, their white folds gleaming against the silhouetted indoors. Beyond the folds lay the clear blue sky, sweet yellow stone banister, crumbling concrete blocks, low roofs topped with bright blue tanks that hold the household rations of water, a ubiquitous object across the roofscape of Havana.

The laundress is no longer alone. She and two other women stand under one of the archways among the strand of gleaming dinner napkins, in casual conversation as they hang the last couple cloths. Soon the laundress picks up her belongings, and leaves the room, her work complete. She pauses for a moment as we notice each other.

Soon after, I gather my belongings and leave too- back down the winding stone staircase and into the street. I am dreaming of breakfast- an egg sandwich on fresh fluffy bread with a smidgen of ketchup for flavor from Don Luigi's Cafeteria. A glass of pineapple juice drunk right at the vendor's window as he comes around to switch the signage and add pizza to the menu for the coming lunch hour.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

First Ballet Class of 2017

It is very nice and a little strange that such a lovely thing as a ballet class can take place when the country seems on the brink of self-destruction. Then again, there have been worse things. How to find freedom within a rigid structure- is the ultimate quest of this dance.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Immigrant Ban

Who else will be detained at the airport today, tomorrow, next week next month? Will it be you, your friend, your spouse, your parents? Someone you know from college or the coffee shop? With the immigrant/refuge ban, Trump pulls at--yanks, burns--the strands of America's DNA. He torches the core of this nation, its identity, its very definition, the engines of our nation since its founding--without which we would not exist as we do today, and without which we will cease to exist as we do today. Luckily, this issue crosses socioeconomic lines (see Google, Facebook CEOs), so let's hope we can unite across these usual boundaries against this alien sitting in the White House. Let US burn HIM to the ground.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Laughter

The road to hell is paved with jokes.
Think twice before you laugh.
To laugh is to give your approval.
Laugh sparingly.
Similarly treat language.
Language creeps into layers between layers.
Into thought and belief which every use compounds.

Election Result

My fellow women, as the 2016 election results become basically clear, I have to confess that I feel angry at all men everywhere right now. Not at any individual man who is as good as can be, but at the general maleness that pervades our daily lives and our very existence, and pervades so deeply that it is like original sin. If you are male, you are born guilty. I know this is irrational but this is my confession as the die is cast. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Falling in Love with Rumba

Following an evening of classes in Afro-Caribbean dance forms, I find myself increasingly intrigued by the forms of movement that emerge from combining the earthly, undulating, percussive nature of African dance with Caribbean joyfulness and pelvis-centric sensuality. The inherent joyfulness of rumba is weighted with sadness because more emphatically than any other dance I have experienced, this one is used as a means of forgetting. On the other hand, its music contains age-old stories, so the dance that expresses it is also a means of remembering. It is a dance that liberates the body in its entirety and puts the mind in a happy trance. The steps are weighted but not harsh or aggressive; rather the foot plays with the ground, massaging it and making it pliable, the rigid earth. The earth receives and sends back this plied energy which ripples through the torso and out the arms- suave, always suave.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Reclaiming the Day

This evening around 5:30pm, I was deep in the trenches at work, with a million tasks to follow up on for multiple cafe openings. And then I got a call from my aunt in Korea. By the time I got off the phone, I realized I really only had one task to complete, and that was to leave work and enjoy the rest of the day. So I did. After completing a couple extra tasks. How we leave this life is not our choice to make, whether quick or prolonged, peaceful or painful. The most we can do is reclaim the day.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Efficiency

Modern life in the developed world renders my survival instinct lazy and out of practice, so that it is at risk of being shocked when things do not happen with maximum efficiency. In times like these I remind myself that efficiency in daily life is an artificial construct. Rather, I should expect the hunt and chase, and marvel when the game walks right into my hands.

On this beautiful summer's night, I walked the South Street Bridge home, turning into the Schuylkill riverwalk. My mind and body were still resonating with the rumba and Afro-Cuban folkloric beats. I saw my shadow cast onto the boardwalk and made it dance with me. We quite literally danced our way home. I felt close to the stars.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

An Ode to Current Affairs

Fuck free speech, and yes to chemical castration. Cut out his tongue and cut off his balls. Tie them up naked on either side of a pole stuck into an ant hill. Justice is a snap. What's the big deal? 49 people dead. The one constant in our lives it seems has been mass shootings and bombings. Terrorism begins from home turf. Let us look inward before we look outward. Idiot with bad hair given a megaphone. How does he still have friends? The rich will serve the rich. The ignoramus will worship the brash and hollow rhetoric.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Cool down, Warm up

My dinner is getting cold because I got my hips hooked on the salsa beats. Warming them up for some good times ahead.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Speaking in Centuries

It's been a quarter of a century since 1990. Take that, perspective.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Reminder

Want nothing; absorb everything.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Modern Sounds

It's 6 in the morning, and pouring rain, but the sky is light. Its soft white-gray hue lights up my curtains. The sound of the rain beating like pebbles against the balcony floor makes me think I might be in a tent in the middle of Jersey, or back home in the Pacific Northwest- or in the middle of a rainforest that Philly once must have been eons ago, like when brontosauri were still roaming the Earth munching on trees. As the day breaks and the minutes move forward, the rain slows to a silence and is surpassed by the sound of cars speeding by below over the wet roads, of car doors slamming shut, and of birds chirping and human voices calling. The roar of the brontosaurus becomes the groaning and heaving of the Septa bus and garbage trucks. Modern Sounds.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Shark Devours the Seal in One Fell Swoop

To have the opportunity to say goodbye and prepare for a death is, I see now, an opportunity that exceeds expectations. In real life, according to the ways and whims of Mother Nature, death happens in an unplanned instant and is devoid of the sense of justice or retribution. It is not required to explain itself. It is not required to make sense, to forewarn or be gentle. Simply, it is a part of the system of life in which what comes must go. Life goes on. Screams are swallowed by the stars. From here on, survival is predicated on acceptance. However, what is accepted is not the death itself, but rather the sense of loss which becomes a part of the survivor's being.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Spatial Relationships in Dance

In movement, two kinds of spatial relationships are considered and accounted for: the one between the body and the space in which the body moves; and the one between the head-- which houses the mind-- and the body, which is viewed as being separate and distant from the self. Such a disjointed perspective helps to achieve extension, a largeness of presence, balance, and freedom of movement.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Stranger's Hour



Stepping out into the vacant night, a couple hours before the break of dawn, the air is warm for winter and thick with fog. Beams of light from streetlamps streak through the darkness, their light scattered in a hundred thousand different directions by the microscopic droplets; darting, floating and swirling through space, so that the night is made strangely bright-- almost white-- leaving the lone witness of this hour's spell a stranger in a well-worn path, nought but a shadow herself passing through the mist.




Stepping out into the dawn, the birds scatter out of the bushes and trees. Passing by the empty lot of unkempt grass, a bovine figure stands against the far wall, a fixture beneath the cityscape. Tiny sparrows fly toward the fence, settling into the little looped wire openings. One settles next to a rusted padlock. The earthy red of the rust and the charming roundness of the little sparrow are expressions of beauty which sit side-by-side in peace against the golden light of the waking sun. The light is full of promise.




Stepping into the midnight hour, the air is frigid. The church steeple rises high into the navy blue sky and curves to meet the charcoal branches of a giant tree which bends to meet the steeple. They loom across the sky and pull the ground from beneath her feet. Hooded figures head toward one another, and cross without a word, eyes to the ground. The birds are silent, the fence empty.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Froot Loop



Froot Loops are the colors that dreams are made of 

They are like spoonfuls of happiness 

innocence in a bowl

And you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

...and especially for dessert 

Too bad your poop turns green if you eat too much 

Froot Loops are the colors that dreams are made of 

They are like spoonfuls of happiness 

innocence in a bowl

...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wrapping Up

What is sweet without the bitter? What is life without the urgency caused by death? What is love without yearning? Everything tinged with sadness, all sadness tinged with beauty, each beautiful thing beholds a mystery which fills the heart with wonder- a wonder which elevates the spirit, if only briefly, and not without lasting consequence. This Christmas, I give to show that I love, and I am going to midnight mass as an atheist. Driven by awareness of the brevity of life to seize the chance for kindness and love, for ritual and mystery. This Christmas, I spend time and money on a live Christmas tree that will soon whither and die, driven by nostalgia for Christmas trees past, by a childish reverence for this particular tradition, and by a desire to not let this year's Christmas season pass quietly and forgettably. This year, I embrace the experience of Christmas for all its worth, dead tree and all. Merry Christmas, y'all.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Table Set for Four

After work, I take a walk and gather garlic, persimmon, and a bouquet of pink roses and hydrangea from George Baker flowers. Once home, I boil beef chuck, rehydrate dried seaweed and cringe multiple times at the terrible smell of fish sauce as I spoon it into the brothy medley not once, nor twice, but FIVE times. I arrange the various items just so on my boring, white ikea table, a table set for four.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Yarn Store

I dallied in a yarnyard this afternoon, a resplendent world of different colored skeins. An otherworldly periwinkle blue sat on a shelf, so unassuming, waiting patiently to be transformed into a dreamlike stratosphere. Lush grassy greens and mustard yellows caught my eye; as well did a deep, rich red, and a black that was not quite black-- containing silver linings. In my mind, images were spun of strawberries and Central Park, of traipsing through a wonderland of autumn leaves until time and direction held no meaning. And chartreuse! such a delightfully ambiguous color...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ballet. Beer. Beatles. The Bachelorette Life.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Definition of Movement


Theorem 2.5.11: A movement is the integral of an infinitesimal series of poses.

Corollary: Between each pose, there must exist a critical factor called "flow".

Example: Pirouettes. Pique fouettes.

It is unrealistic and detrimental to practice to try to hit every single pose contained within a movement. The mind must focus on the most prominent, pivotal moments and visualize them as images to aim for. Flow must be created through proper timing, proper use of the parts of the body, etc. Flow must be used, not forced; under control, not out of control. 

*Source: The Calculus of Ballet, by Angelina Ballerina

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gravitational Grief

Grief is a force like gravity; it works over a field that is greater, much greater than the day to day, the hour by hour, or even the week to week. It extends its broad, heavy reach over a vast area of months, perhaps even years-- I cannot yet tell-- and weighs heavily on your subconscious, latent, until it manifests itself, for instance, in dreams, which more and more to me seem like a conduit to some realm beyond, whether this hidden realm lies in the self or in angels and ghosts. Because its reach covers such a vast area of time, its weight is only minimally felt from day to day. But over time-- weeks, months-- this weight accumulates with the self being none the wiser until one night, you find yourself facing an old brick wall in the middle of a walk home, weeping, unable to contain the grief that has mysteriously taken over your conscious, adult self and broken it down into notes of whimpering, sounds of the child that you thought you had outgrown many years ago. You could attribute it to extreme fatigue, hunger, physical exhaustion, daily stress, all leading to some random existential crisis, but the truth is that the grief exists inside of you independent of these negative physical conditions, and is carried around with you through all the day-to-day, week-to-week highs and lows, through all the ephemeral moments of laughter or of worldly troubles. The negative physical conditions only make it easier to break down the self, to tap into this latent abyss-like pool of sadness and release the element within, an element which hijacks the well-controlled, well-composed self of reason and maturity, and reduces it to a heaving soul, primal sounds escaping from a source beyond comprehension, as if the force of the element is too much to bear for one fragile human being and must be released to the night sky, dissipated among the stars, absorbed by the silence of space and whatever mysterious dark matter that exists there. Thus is the mammoth power of grief; it buries deeply inside the individual self, and extends across acres and acres of time.